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Heartland Gardens offering organic gardening classes

By Staff | Sep 28, 2011

An aerial image of Heartland Garden's labyrinth, take just before the summer crop was harvested.

Andrea Guerrero and Ben Pino, co-founders of Heartland Gardens, announced a series of upcoming classes being offered by the organic gardening group, which debuted late last year promoting better nutritional habits and self-sustainability.

“One of the newest trends in urban living are community gardens,” said Guerrero. “Our goal is to educate people on how they can grow their own herbs, fruits and vegetables properly.”

Recently, the garden yielded a hearty crop featuring a wide variety of vegetables planted in their raised labyrinth. According to Pino, the end-of-the-summer harvest included corn, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant, cowpeas, watermelon, peanuts, adzuki beans, sorghum, amaranth and sunflowers.

“Our summer crops have to be able to withstand the higher temperatures,” said Pino, “but I think we did really well.”

Heartland Garden’s charitable purpose is to facilitate the implementation of 500 similar organic gardens in Lee County over the next four years through the Southwest Florida 500 Program.

In addition, they will focus on constructing miniature food producing gardens at public and private schools, retirement communities, local businesses and private homes. The mini-garden concept teaches residents how to grow the maximum amount of food in the minimum amount of space.

“We wanted this whole concept to be both fun and educational,” said Guerrero, a resident of Sanibel. “The best way for the community to support us is by taking one of our classes.”

Some upcoming classes offered at Heartland Gardens:

Thursday, Oct. 6 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. – Composting 104: Build A Pile

Composting is the basis for growing more and better quality vegetables. This tropical composting method is simple, effective and fun. Students must bring a 5-gallon bucket of “green” material; grass clippings, weeds, non-meat kitchen scraps. $10

Wednesday, Oct. 12 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. – Mushrooms 101: Growing Gourmet

Come away with the know-how to cultivate your very own mushroom log. Every participant leaves with an inoculated log! $35

Friday, Oct. 14 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. – Farm To Table “Cooking” Class

Learn to harvest and quickly prepare your yummy organic vegetables into super-healthy raw food. Students must bring their own plate, cup and utensils to eat with. Free

Thursday, Oct. 20 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. – Herbs 101: Build Your Own Herb Box

No kitchen is complete without fresh herbs. Every student receives a fully stocked herb box complete with fertilizer, medicinal and cooking applications and full care instructions. $50

Jan. 15 thru April 22 from 9 to 11 a.m. – Grow Your Food

From seed to harvest, this comprehensive course with teach you how to organically grow your own food in Southwest Florida. Everyone shares the harvest of an array of crops grown in class. This class teaches a form of bio-intensive mini-farming, which is sustainable and can yield as much as 300 pounds of food per 100 square feet. Visit the course website at growyourfood.weebly.com. $125

“Be a part and join the community in our mission to ease recession pressure, improve the health of people and green the environment through food-producing gardens,” added Guerrero.

For more information about Heartland Gardens, a 501(c)3 educational public charity, call 239-689-4249 or visit www.heartlandgardens.org. They are located at 16836 McGregor Blvd., Suite 4 in South Fort Myers.